Elon Musk says SpaceX could face 'genuine risk of bankruptcy' if Raptor production is not enough for a 'Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks'

Elon Musk says SpaceX could face 'genuine risk of bankruptcy' if Raptor production is not enough for a 'Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks'

SpaceX founder Elon Musk is hell-bent on building a second home for humanity on Mars. His aerospace company runs around-the-clock operations to develop the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle that will enable humanity to build a permanent base on the Moon and the first colony on Mars. With this bold ambitions there is no time to waste, time is crucial to achieve the spacecraft's development in our lifetime.

Everything about the stainless-steel Starship vehicle is new, designed and manufactured by SpaceX engineers. Perhaps the most complex, is Starship’s methane-fueled Raptor engines. Musk aims to increase the engines' thrust and efficiency to be capable of lifting up to Low Earth Orbit the stainless-steel vehicle’s own weight, plus 100 tons of cargo. It would become the most powerful and largest rocket in the world. "The magnitude of the Starship program is not widely appreciated. It is designed to extend life to Mars (and the moon), which requires ~1000 times more payload to orbit than all current Earth rockets combined," Musk said (see update below)

Starship is under development at the Starbase facility situated in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, and Raptor engines are developed at its engine testing facility in McGregor, Texas. Musk’s plan is to increase Raptor production rate enough to conduct a Starship flight “at least once every two weeks” in 2022. According to an e-mail first-obtained by technology site Space Explored and CNBC news, Musk says SpaceX could face a “genuine risk of bankruptcy” if Raptor engine production is not enough to conduct frequent Starship flights. Musk e-mailed SpaceX employees over Thanksgiving weekend to discuss the seriousness of the situation. “Unfortunately, the Raptor production crisis is much worse than it had seemed a few weeks ago. As we have dug into the issues following the exiting of prior senior management, they have unfortunately turned out to be far more severe than was reported. There is no way to sugarcoat this,” Musk wrote in the e-mail, “I was going to take this weekend off, as my first weekend off in a long time, but instead, I will be on the Raptor line all night and through the weekend.” He asked employees to show up to work if they could –“[…] We need all hands on deck," he stated.

"[...] What it comes down to is that we face genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year," Musk wrote in the e-mail.

The full email was shared by a CNBC and The Verge reporter on November 30, linked below. When the news surfaced, a Twitter user asked about the Raptor situation and Musk responded –“It’s getting fixed.”

Starship’s development affects NASA’s timeline to land astronauts on the Moon by 2025 and the ability to colonize Mars in our lifetime. The spacecraft’s success would enable the company to complete the deployment of the Starlink broadband satellite constellation comprised of 20,000 satellites, designed to connect rural and remote communities around the world to reliable Internet. To date, Falcon 9 has launched a bit over 1,800 satellites. Starship will be capable of launching 400 internet-beaming satellites to orbit in a single mission, unlike Falcon 9 which can only launch 60 in its payload fairing. “[...] The consequences for SpaceX if we can not get enough reliable Raptors made is that we then can’t fly Starship, which means we then can’t fly Starlink Satellite V2 (Falcon has neither the volume nor the mass to orbit needed for satellite V2). Satellite V1, by itself, is financially weak, while V2 is strong,” Musk said about the next-generation Starlink satellites.

“In addition, we are spooling up terminal [Starlink antenna] production to several million units per year, which will consume massive capital, assuming that satellite V2 will be on orbit to handle the bandwidth demand. These terminals will be useless otherwise,” he added. The Starlink broadband division was established to help fund SpaceX’s ambitious Mars colonizing plans with its revenue. Long-term, Starlink internet service customers would support funding the production of a Starship fleet. The company must first make it through a significant amount of negative cash flow before seeing any profit from the Starlink broadband business. 11/30/2021 UPDATE: Musk responded to this TESMANIAN article via a series of Tweets, linked below: 

Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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